Although we may contemplate it from time to time, many of us don’t think seriously about preparing a will. But it’s probably the most important document we will ever write, and there’s no time like the present to write a will and enjoy the peace of mind that comes from having it done. Here are a few guidelines:
Should I consult a lawyer? Some people try to save money by drafting a will on their own. While completing a ready-made will that can be purchased for a few dollars may seem appealing, it may end up costing more money for the people you wished to benefit with your estate.
Wills are governed by provincial legislation, which can change. You may also not be an expert on the ins and outs of taxation and how to reduce what will need to be paid. One unclear sentence or phrase could put your will into legal limbo for a very long time.
The cost of having a professionally drafted will is far less than most people realize. You can also save money by making sure you are organized and ready before seeing a lawyer by creating a record of your important documents and the names of your immediate family, executor and beneficiaries. The less time you spend with the lawyer, the lower the cost of preparing your will.
What will happen if I don’t have a will? The court will appoint an administrator to manage your estate. Provincial legislation will determine who your beneficiaries will be, and this may include some people whom you had no intention of remembering.
The process is generally costlier in terms of both administrative expenses and lost tax advantages, leaving much less than you may have intended for your chosen beneficiaries. And some of the bequests you had always intended to make, such as to your church, your favourite health charity or organizations like Amnesty International that you supported in your lifetime, would be ignored.
What is an executor? This is the person you choose to be responsible for using your assets as needed to pay any outstanding debts and to file a final income tax return. They are also responsible for preserving your assets until they can be sold or transferred to your beneficiaries. Any adult can be an executor including one or more of the following: your spouse, a family member, a friend, a trust company or a lawyer.
A free information package on wills can be received by writing to Amnesty International, 1992 Yonge Street, Suite #310, Toronto, Ontario, M4S 1Z7. (NC)